Background: Individuals with allergies or asthma have had a long-standing bias against the use of chicken, goose, and duck feather pillows, comforters, quilts, and mattresses.
Objective: We show that raw, unprocessed feathers contain dust-mite allergen that is removed by washing, and that feather pillows, whether covered or not, do not internally accumulate dust-mite allergen when used in mite-infested bedrooms over a 3-month period.
Methods: Feathers obtained from six companies as unprocessed feathers (n = 8 batches) and processed feathers (n = 16 batches) were analyzed for dust-mite (Der p 1 and Der f 1) using monoclonal antibody-based immunoenzyametric assays with appropriate internal controls. Five pairs of new feather pillows (one covered and one uncovered) were placed in five bedrooms with known dust-mite contamination for 90 days. The pillows were then assayed for mite content.
Results: Dust-mite allergen was detected in 7 of 8 unprocessed feather samples; combined Der p 1 and Der f 1 mean = 524 ng/g, range 152 to 1,850 ng/g, whereas all 17 manufacturer-processed feather samples contained no detectable dust-mite. Although 4 of 5 bedrooms contained significant dust-mite allergen (>2,000 ng or Der p 1 and f 1, range 2,500 to 10,300 ng/g), none of the 90-day feather pillows became contaminated by dust-mite allergen even in the absence of a pillow cover.
Conclusions: Feathers washed using industrial methods do not contain detectable dust-mite allergen. Pillows manufactured with processed feathers, whether encased in a dust cover or not, do not become contaminated by dust-mite allergen after 90 days of use in environments containing significant dust-mite allergen contamination.